NC Attorney General Josh Stein Accused of Ethical Misconduct Before U.S. Supreme Court
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) has been accused of committing serious ethical misconduct in a brief filed before the United States Supreme Court. Lawyers for the North Carolina Legislature have asked the Supreme Court to recognize their defense of election integrity laws such as voter ID laws and ignore Stein's attempt to derail an appeal to preserve the laws. The pleadings to the Supreme Court accuse Attorney General Stein of severe ethical misconduct, misconduct for which many lawyers have been disbarred.
Before Stein won the 2016 election and became North Carolina's attorney general, he was also a fact witness at trial for those attacking North Carolina’s election integrity statutes in federal court.
Lawyers are prohibited by ethical rules from acting as both a fact witness and an attorney of record in any case. The proper course for Stein was to recuse himself, not file a motion to dismiss a Supreme Court appeal to preserve voter ID
Legislators in North Carolina have filed this pleading with the United States Supreme Court in the voter ID fight. It challenges the decision by Stein to sabotage the voter ID appeal. It states:
This motion is intended to ensure that North Carolina’s 2013 election reform laws—including a photo ID requirement—receive their due defense in this Court, notwithstanding North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s unauthorized (and ethically questionable) effort to withdraw the State’s pending petition for certiorari.
After his inauguration in January, Stein filed a motion to outright dismiss the appeal of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling striking down North Carolina’s voter ID law. Stein never consulted with his client -- the legislature --- before filing the motion to dismiss. The legislature had also retained a private firm to defend the voter ID law and Stein’s motion to dismiss the appeal involved a notice to that firm that they could no longer represent the legislature.
Stein’s conduct would effectively terminate an election-integrity package designed to fight proven voter fraud in the state. For example, lax same-day registration had allowed scores of illegal votes to such a degree that at least one election had to be done a second time.
“We need to make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote, not harder, and I will not continue to waste time and money appealing this unconstitutional law,” Democrat Governor Roy Cooper said in a statement announcing Stein’s motion. “It’s time for North Carolina to stop fighting for this unfair, unconstitutional law and work instead to improve equal access for voters.”
Most troubling, the legislature’s request to the Supreme Court notes that Stein was a fact witness in the very same case when he was a sitting state senator. Stein testified as a fact witness for the plaintiffs attacking voter ID and election-integrity laws.